The man behind the idea has never been to Burning Man. Does that make him a pre-Burner?
The musical is the brainchild of Matt Werner, a 30-year-old New York City-based Google employee who has never been to Burning Man. This year will be his first.
The Oakland, Calif. native — a former “hacker house” resident and a friend to many Silicon Valley hipster techies — admits that he sees the irony: A virgin Burner orchestrates a musical version of the world’s favorite desert Utopian festival that he has never been to.
His own story seems to be a little bit reflected in the plot of the unborn musical. The story line focuses on a 25-year old techie named Joe who lives in San Francisco and commutes down to Silicon Valley.
Joe goes to Burning Man one year and it disappoints initially.
“His lofty ambitions to network with high-powered executives are not met. Between getting dumped by his girlfriend, dancing with sparkle ponies, and nearly dying while on a vision quest in the desert, he reaches a real low,” according to Werner’s web page.
“In the midst of this low, the acceptance, connection, and playfulness he experiences at Burning Man make him start to question his past life of ambition and power in Silicon Valley. The sharing economy and free spirits he meets in the desert make him wonder--is his real mission in life just to make money? Or is it maybe to authentically connect with others and help others?” the synopsis reads.
The RGJ asks the hard-hitting questions:
Q: Are you going to be critical at all of Burning Man and its direction? Is this just about a trip to Burning Man, about Burning Man? Or is it about Burning Man and its direction today?
I’m using “Book of Mormon” as a model. It does satirize the Mormon faith, but it does celebrate it too. It’s laughing with them, and not at them. It is going to be a satirical piece. It’s going to be a musical comedy. I mean, people recognize the absurdity of the festival. It is going to be a celebration of the values, and about the conflict between Silicon Valley and Black Rock City.
Q: Which side of that conflict are you on?
For me, I live in multiple worlds. I’ve worked at Google for five years, but I’m going to go to Burning Man. What is interesting to me, this notion of utopia. Some people I know, they believe that technology will solve all the world’s problems. Then there’s this other version of utopia, where we’re really in tune with ourselves. What I think is fascinating is seeing these worlds collide. I’ve lived in both of them. I used to live with these Russian programmers living in this “hacker house” pad. But we’ve had these really deep, meaningful conversations about all of this. Some of the media depictions have really hammed up the influence of these guys.
Q: So, do these techies come back changed people? Can you be a Google guy, or a tech savant, and be a true Burner too?
If you’re a billionaire, can you really say you’re a Burner? I really don’t know. Working at Google, the co-founders, they’ve all been to Burning Man. Some of the Silicon Valley people that go — some of the guys, they’re going to hook up with girls, and do drugs, and dance. There’s others who are radically transformed, and who do decide to find other work. I don’t have a statement I am trying to make: Silicon Valley, bad; Burning Man, good, or vice versa
[Read the rest of the story at the Reno Gazette-Journal]
There’s a conflict between Silicon Valley and Black Rock City? Could’ve fooled me. But perhaps that is the ironic premise for this Big Farce. Donate here if you want to find out.